Friday, April 30, 2010

Conflict of Individualism with Collective Knowledge

Elizabeth Gilbert - the famous author of 'Eat Pray Love' and 'Committed' sums up her western upbringing as: "You matter". She talks about personal happiness through a very personal, individualistic search for contentment.

Today one can read umpteen similar viewpoints supporting happiness via individualism, freedom to choose one's own destiny towards happiness, opportunity to shape one's own life's ambition and dreams, independence to choose one's own love (life partner), liberation from conservative tradition and promotion of the self.

Elizabeth Gilbert describes this phenomenon beautifully when she writes, "I was raised to believe that I was special. My 'me-ness' was always prized, and was recognised as being different from my sister's 'her-ness', my friends' 'them-ness' and everyone else's 'everyone-else-ness'."

I see nothing wrong with this attitude but fear that it may instigate rebellous-ness. Rebellion in itself too may not be bad but when laced with ignorance can create chaos.

Elizabeth Gilbert had to travel the world at the age of 37 to research and discover 'Marriage' - the stubbornly enduring old institution. That too, after being married earlier for 6 years. Fortunately, she had the money, motivation, intelligence and resources to take the effort. But was it worth it? It is interesting to note that she hardly mentions the role of her family, her upbringing in teaching her notions about marriage.

My contention is that decisions and directions in life is best taken with maximum possible understanding about life. It is the relative wisdom that would ensure relative contentment. My belief is that individual wisdom can never be richer than collective wisdom. My belief is that the family support system is the most self-less of all source of collective wisdom.

The culture of individualism conflicts with this benefit of collective wisdom because an individual has to suspend logic and obvious reasoning to take advantage of collective aged wisdom. There are many aspects of life's wisdom that cannot be understood at a particular point in time. Individual wisdom comes with age, experience, education, circumstances. So it may be prudent to believe in collective wisdom without really understanding the same.

If we take wisdom in terms of the understanding the institution of marriage and the effect of individualism in America, it was as early as 1800s when social conservatives suggested that 'this trend toward expressive individualism in marriage would spell out the very breakdown of society'. What they specifically predicted was that 'allowing couples to make life matches based purely on love and individual whims would promptly lead to astronomical divorce rates and a host of bitterly broken homes'. Dont you think they were kind of correct?

To reiterate, it may not be always possible to understand 'why is it what it is' for whatever our elders advise us, society administers, neighbours gossip etc. We need to open our intuition and instincts to accept views and opinions irrespective of whatever it is termed - 'traditions', 'superstitions', 'customs', 'gossip', jokes etc.

We should not let the collective wisdom of our extended family support system get diluted with fervent individualism. We cannot afford to re-invent our worldly understanding every lifetime. Of course, we can choose to disagree, but with extreme caution.

The western concept of individual choice may sound cool. But beware, its lonely and devoid of worldly time-tested logic. We have to let collective wisdom survive the onslaught of western individualistic culture.

Everyone of us cant be Elizabeth Gilbert.

Friday, April 16, 2010

We ignore dental hygiene.

Last week one of my friends had to extract six of his teeth due to decay. It was alarming and a shock for me.

Dental hygiene becomes a thought and a concern when we find difficulty chewing with one of our teeth. Unfortunate but true that we visit our dentist when a tooth pains. Even in Metros, where dental knowledge and expense are relatively higher, dental hygiene is most neglected.

It’s when we are returning from the dentist with our first root canal done then we are thinking of taking care of the remaining teeth. Even then, how many of us know how to take care of our remaining teeth?

For many, the obvious may be to start brushing after dinner before going to bed. For some, surprising it may sound, it is brushing regularly from now. It is worse if it is a promise to brush properly from now.

Dental hygiene is a serious concern that we are seriously not concerned today. We have to understand that tooth decay is irreversible and realise that the sorrow of not having a critical tooth like a molar or a canine is lifelong. Tooth decay not only spreads to other teeth, but also produces a foul smell.

Did you know that a root canal is actually a process to cut off the supply of nutrients and blood to the tooth, making it a dead brittle tooth, which can chip off any time? Scary, isn’t it?

Dental hygiene is easy, cheap and has long term benefits. It comprises brushing, flossing, cleansing and a six monthly visit to your dentist.

Our daily dental hygiene plan should involve brushing our teeth twice in a day - morning and before going to bed, flossing our teeth and rinsing our mouth with a mouthwash once in a day. Brushing is for overall cleaning, flossing is to remove deeply lodged food particles and cleansing is to reduce the bacterial count and activity.

If we double this daily regime with a six monthly visit to the dentist for specialised tooth cleaning and check up, we are surely assured of a healthy pair of teeth for a lifetime.

It is always re-assuring to have one familiar dentist, as he would know your teeth structure, history and your lifestyle better. So go and make friends with a dentist today. I have made mine.

Wish I had the good sense to follow these instructions when I was a kid. It is important that we teach and enforce dental hygiene to our kids. The best way to enforce is to do it ourselves. Kids learn from their parents, as they take them as examples. If the parents brushes twice daily and enforces the kids to do the same, it is very likely that the kids will pick up the habit too.

I am going to meet my friend tomorrow to look at him and silently resolve to start a more stricter dental hygiene regime. I dont want to extract any of my tooth till I am fifty. Period.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Reservations against Medical Seats is a Criminal Offense

Reservation like License Raj is a bane for any modern democratic society. It leads to discrimination and misuse by the mighty. More than discrimination, I worry about its ability to foster inefficiency.

We may decide as a strategy to tolerate inefficiency in politics, inefficiency in civil services et al, but we can't tolerate inefficiency in the medical practice.

Reservation for medical seats towards scheduled tribes, scheduled castes and other backward classes is tantamount to assisting murders and death due to negligence. In this case, this 'negligence' is actually 'disguised' ignorance.

Medical science is a quest to understand the human body, which is so vast that it has the potential of giving a nobel prize every year for another zillions of years. I believe through many discussions with doctors that we perhaps know only 20% percent of the human body and its myriad behaviour.

So, medical science needs students with sharp intelligence, memory, insightful analysis and an aptitude to grasp complex scientific logic. Additionally, it needs life-long curiosity to crave to learn more every passing day with newer discoveries and theories.

In contrast, reservation is bringing in students with lower intelligence, lower aptitude and lower analytical ability into the medical fraternity.

This has obvious dire consequences and more so because of the following two reasons:
  • The non-medico society knows very less about medical science. This leaves very little argument against a wrong prognosis. I remember one of our neighbours not allowing his child to drink water, as he was having loose motion thinking that water will only make it worse.
  • The doctors are kept in God-like social standing. They are the opinion makers. So, naturally doctors are not questioned and are followed with blind faith. That is the reason perhaps, of the existence of Hippocratic Oath.
I have had so many instances of stupid mis-diagnoses that it pains my heart.

In spite of the fact that Parkinson's Disease is one of the heavily studied disease, my father was mis-diagnosed twice by doctors who had Masters in medical sciences. A year later, a 4th year student told us about my father by just looking at him for a few minutes during my marriage function. I have to mention that she was the topper in her batch.

I have heard of so many gastro-intestinal complications due to mis-prescription of antibiotics without proper guidance about the side-effects of antibiotics. My uncle expired due to heavy intestinal bleeding due to wounds in the intestines caused by excessive antibiotic doses.

One doctor could not recognise peripheral vascular disease which is ultra-common in heavy diabetic patients. It is unbelievable but it was me who had to pin-point that this is PVD, but it was a bit late.

A good doctor is one who can think out of the box assisted by his clear understanding of the various facets of medical science. A book worm (one who believes in mugging) who passes his medical exams can never understand medical sciences too well.

We have to seriously understand and give a thought to abolish reservation for medical seats in all Government colleges. And very quickly at that.

Another disease affecting the medical fraternity, I thought I should mention, is the prevalence of admission through donations. Donations seats are as harmful as reservation seats to the common man.

Beware Indians.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Introspection: We chase security till death!

Today I am about to be 34 in about a few days. I think I have had a successful stint at leading life to a respectable position. I have grown from earning 1500 a month to earning in lakhs. I have learnt to keep myself productively busy. Very busy.

But a strange thought is currently depriving me of all my pride and contentment.

We are only taught and doctrinated to chase security. We are not taught to chase our dreams.

Security, I feel is a transient term, a state of mind that changes with context, time and money.

I have been chasing security. I have been chasing money. I have been chasing the easiest and the most secure way to make money. Not knowing how much is enough money. Not knowing how much money will give you enough security.

I surely had a passion and an inkling of my interests. I am happy that I didnt go completely haywire. I studied advertising at MICA. Designed communication for McDonald's

Then I think the inevitable had to happen. I aimed for convenience, comfort, stability and security. I jumped jobs and skills that were of interest and convenience to me and that which could fetch me more money. Soon, I had EMIs to pay, a house to run, a car to drive, a bike to ride. I had a lifestyle to maintain. Pubs to go and luxuries to experience.

Maya-Nagari Mumbai, all the while assisted me in my quest for security. I didnt realise and understand the maya.

I took the stand still-traffic to be a necessary evil to be waded through. I took to working 10-12 hours as if I had no option. I considered the brown sky without any stars to be the natural sky. I took the honks, construction sounds, and all the artificial sounds to be natural. Sometimes I think I will become deaf. I took to staying away from my parents as something that everyone in a metro does. It seemed normal.

Thinking of what's next become a priority. Ambition, Performance, Ego, More Money, peer pressure became a way of life... Anxiety is accepted. They say there are pills that are abused to control anxiety. So much for security.

I forgot to look back, to introspect. Today, I feel a bit shaky. Security still alludes me. Security has become a never ending chase.

Time to think. Time to realise my dreams. Its never too late.